Senator Sonny Angara called on the Small Business Corporation (SBCorp) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) to utilize the unspent funding from Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) to help the stakeholders in the tourism industry prepare for the restart of activities after close to two years of hibernation.
As the sponsor of Bayanihan 2, Angara said a significant amount of funding was set aside for aid to tourism as one of the hardest hit sectors since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020.
Based on data from SBCorp, a total of P4 billion was allocated under B2 for the provision of low-interest loans to the tourism sector.
In a recent statement, SBCorp said that only P278 million worth of loans to the tourism sector have been approved as of February 28, 2022 while another P524 million are “in the pipeline for processing.”
“A lot of the tourism industry players were hesitant to avail of loans and this was understandable because many did not want to resume operations while quarantine classifications were constantly changing,” Angara said.
“But now that more people are vaccinated and the number of COVID cases has gone down, the country has opened its doors to both foreign and domestic tourism. The barely utilized loan facility will help jumpstart the operations of the tourism players in anticipation of the influx of arrivals,” added Angara, who is chairman of the Committee on Finance.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has eased its rules regarding foreign tourist arrivals by allowing fully-vaccinated individuals to enter the country.
For unvaccinated tourists, the country will now allow their entry as long as they can present a negative COVID test, including a laboratory-based antigen test taken within 24 hours before their departure from their country of origin.
Under B2, which expired in June 30, 2021, a total of P10 billion was provided to SBCorp in capital infusion for the provision of low-interest loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and the tourism sector.
Unlike most of the other funds under Bayanihan 2 that were no longer available for use after the law’s expiration, Angara explained that the unutilized amounts provided to SBCorp are still available since they now form part of the capital of the Department of Trade and Industry-supervised firm.
Out of the P10 billion that was allocated by Congress to the SBCorp under Bayanihan 2, only P8.08 billion was released by the Department of Budget and Management, out of which P7.93 billion was for the loan program for MSMEs and the tourism sector.
SBCorp has stated that the entire P3.93 billion for loans to MSMEs has already been utilized.
“The revival of the tourism sector after a two-year slump will go a long way in uplifting the lives of its workers, restoring the revenue streams of the local government units and reviving the economy as a whole. We encourage the SBCorp and the DOT to reach out to the operators who need assistance and to streamline the process in accepting and approving loans so that they can resume normal operations at the soonest possible time,” Angara said.